Since our founding in 2018, SC WIL has been working to Fill the Pipeline of political candidates by encouraging and helping more women run for public office.
A total of 302 women won election or re-election in South Carolina in 2020, meaning that over half of the women who ran for office during that election cycle were victorious. In 2021, 84 women won seats in S.C. municipal elections. In 2022, 119 women were elected in the midterms. And in 2023 municipal elections, 200 women were elected out of 338 who ran.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, however, South Carolina ranks a dismal 48th among the 50 states in the number of women in elected office, with women holding just 14.7 percent of seats in our state legislature.
In terms of statewide elective office, South Carolina also ranks low. Only nine S.C. women have ever held a statewide office, including the current lieutenant governor, Pamela Evette, who was elected in 2018. Nikki Haley was elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She was the first woman ever elected governor of South Carolina.
South Carolina also ranks low in terms of electing women to national office. S.C. voters have never sent a woman to represent them in the U.S. Senate. And it wasn’t until 1986 that a woman, Elizabeth Patterson, was elected in her own right to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives. She served until 1994.
In 2023, women make up just 28 percent of the voting membership of the U.S. Congress.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, money, mentoring, and discrimination are some of the current barriers to filling this pipeline with more women. What can help? Women’s desire for public service, access to campaign training, and the support of women’s organizations.
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